Aroldis Chapman Extends with the Yankees Rather Than Opt Out, Gives a Hint at the Reliever Market

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Aroldis Chapman Extends with the Yankees Rather Than Opt Out, Gives a Hint at the Reliever Market

Chicago Cubs

If Aroldis Chapman were a free agent right now, and had just received a qualifying offer, what kind of contract would he get this offseason? Heading into his age 32 season?

The answer to that question offers an interesting data point for the free agent market, and although we don’t have a perfect answer, we’ve got something close – because we now know what it took to keep him from becoming a free agent:

So, effectively, Chapman gets a three-year, $48 million deal to stay – meaning, accounting for his comfort in New York, he and his agents figured he wasn’t going to get an offer out there for appreciably more than three years and $50 million or so.

That sounds about right.

Chapman is coming off another very successful year (2.21 ERA over 57.0 innings), but his velocity has ticked down, his strikeout/walk rates are now merely very good (36.2%/10.6%), and his super elite days are probably behind him.

Consider that Craig Kimbrel, a year younger at the time, was coming off a very similar trajectory (and a qualifying offer), and ultimately did not sign until after the draft, and got three years and $43 million from the Cubs, which would’ve been pretty close to that three-year, $50 million level over a full year.

The other 32-year-old three-year-deal closer that comes to mind is Wade Davis, also attached to a qualifying offer, and he received three years and $52 million from the Rockies. Neither his nor Kimbrel’s deal looked great immediately after signing either.

So, that is all to say, Chapman’s new deal looks right, and suggests the previously-exploding market for top relievers has probably finally topped out for now. I would not expect to see another offseason of surprisingly large/long deals for relievers like we were seeing back in 2017 and 2018.

The Cubs’ bullpen is full of question marks, with Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, and Kyle Ryan just about the only guys definitely locked in at this point. There are other young arms available behind them, though none is proven. Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills might figure into the mix, depending on what happens with the rotation. But, yeah. You can see the need. The obvious, obvious need.

The high end of the reliever market, by the way, is not great, with guys like Drew Pomeranz, Will Smith, Will Harris, and Daniel Hudson among the top options (which should tell you a lot). You can expect the Cubs to be creative in bringing in additional arms, both from the lower tier of free agency and in trade. Then again, with Chapman’s deal signaling the market won’t keep exploding, maybe a deal in the upper tier will be doable for the Cubs, even as they look to address a need in the rotation and in the lineup.


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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.